BOOK and AUTHOR FEATURE: “Modern Love” by Beau North

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“Modern Love” by Beau North

Blurb: “Love at first sight wasn’t meant for millennials,” thinks Alice Aberdeen: art student, recovering addict, David Bowie enthusiast. Alice is among the recently dumped and only wants to keep her nose to the grindstone until she finishes her degree. Her sister has other ideas and sets her up with new-in-town Will Murphy–tall, dark, and aloof. To say it wasn’t an instant attraction is an understatement: He finds her abrasive, with her sharp tongue and don’t-screw-with-me attitude. She thinks he’s excessively reserved, too damn serious. But the more time Alice spends with Will, the more their slow burn begins to thaw her heart. A man of two worlds, half-Irish, half-Indian, Will feels at home with Alice. He soon realizes her tough shell is hiding extensive scar tissue–from her addiction and recovery to her spectacularly bad ex-girlfriend to the loss of her mother. Modern Love isn’t a story about love at first sight but learning to love yourself before being able to see the one you love.

*****

GUEST POST

I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m relatively new to the Contemporary Romance world. From the first time my aunt snuck me a copy of Jude Deveraux’s ‘A Knight in Shining Armor,’ you could always find me with my nose buried in a historical romance novel. From ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Mysteries of Udolpho’ to Sarah MacLean and Maya Rodale, I just couldn’t get enough of a good, old-fashioned historical romp. Even my first two books, one set in the 1940’s and the other in the 1810’s, are firmly rooted in the past. So I was a late bloomer when it came to contemporary romance.

It wasn’t until my friend Shelley Ann Clark got her book,’Have Mercy,’ published by Loveswept that I began to sit up and take notice. At the time I was desperately trying to finish my first novel, ‘Longbourn’s Songbird,’ and wanted to be published so badly that I was instantly excited and consumed with envy. How did this happen? What made her book so special? So I read it, and it was like having a blindfold pulled off…by the sexiest person you’ve ever seen.

What made this experience such a revelation? What was it that made me connect so quickly and so strongly with contemporary romance? When Isabella asked me to name five things I love about contemporary romance, I was ready to go. So here is (in no particular order) five things that made this die-hard historical fan go modern:

  • Being rooted in present day make for a more immediately relatable story
    • I love forbidding castles and long carriage rides as much as the next girl, but it’s not exactly something I can relate to. These modern-day heroines have modern-day problems, be it making rent on time, getting their kid to daycare or jockeying for a promotion at work. These women aren’t fine, untouchable ladies, they’re us. I wouldn’t be able to parse the problems facing a countess on the cusp of social disgrace, but I do know about crappy waitressing jobs, cranky bosses, trying to finish a semester of college, being stuck working with a jerk (who is actually kind of hot, and maybe I don’t dislike him as much as I thought I did).
  • Women are in charge
    • While I’ll always love the petticoat adventuresses, princesses in disguise and penniless-but-charming wallflowers, there’s something so satisfying about a romance where an independent, successful woman has choices in her life, and can find some fulfillment beyond a husband and family. I cheer when a woman can laud her own achievements, silence her critics, and be comfortable in her own skin. Extra bonus love goes to stories where the female character is better at her job than her male counterparts. It gives so much more texture to the story, makes the romance that much more satisfying.
  • The men have evolved too.
    • Hey, we all love a pirate. Or a viking. Or a barbarian. You know what else I love? Consent. The total absence of male fragility. Judgement-free acceptance of a woman’s sexual history, her preferences, and the ability for a male character to accept that it’s not always about him. Maybe his love interest can have a conversation with another male character, and she’s not in danger of being labeled a wanton woman. As much as I love the protective spirit of historical romance heroes, it can be…a little much. A man who is happiest letting a woman just be herself is a man worth keeping.
  • Representation matters!
    • As much as I LOVE when historical romance revolving around a gay character or one that features an interracial relationship, it’s a lot more difficult to pull of in the 18th century when in many places who you loved could get you arrested, tortured, or killed. And now with the cultural shift of our interconnectivity through social media, we know so much more about ourselves and each other than ever before. I grew up in a tiny, tiny, southern town in the analog days before the internet. I didn’t know what nonbinary or cisgendered meant, because I was uninformed. Now I know better, and I see that  there is so much storytelling opportunity for Gay romance, transgender romance, nonbinary romance, even asexual romance! For someone who identifies as any of those things, it must be immensely satisfying to be able to pick up a book and lose yourself in a story with characters that you see yourself in. Everyone deserves that!
  • Let’s face it…it’s the sex
    • Okay, I’m going to just come out and say it: I really dislike the deflowering-of-maidens parts of historical romance. While I understand that it’s more probable that a young woman in 1805 would be inexperienced in lovemaking, I still tend to skim those parts, just knowing how unlikely it is that this lady’s first time is that enjoyable. I’m happy that this isn’t often a problem in contemporary romance, though I have read my fair share of modern day stories with a virginal heroine, they’re not quite as common. I’m certainly not here to judge you if that’s your thing! Contemporary romance does have the freedom to be open about sex, sexuality, and kink, where historical romance (for the most part) has to stay within the confines of what was known and acceptable at that time. Particularly with any story involving a kink, it’s much more likely that a historical romance will attach some element of bewilderment or shame to it. It’s also liberating to have a character who knows what she (or he!) likes, what pleasures them, and who isn’t embarrassed to ask for—even demand—what feels good.

*****

And since I never do anything by halves, my newfound love of Contemporary Romance inspired me to write my new novella, aptly titled Modern Love. The name, other than being a tip of the hat to modern romances, was inspired by the music of David Bowie. I started writing this book the week he passed away, a few days after his birthday (which was, in fact, a few days after my own birthday). For me, there’s always a great deal of emotion tied in with music. A first dance, the song playing on the radio behind those early, clumsy fumblings of intimacy, a wedding march. In Modern Love, Allie and Will first meet to the sounds of David Bowie, which is where I take you now.

ALLIE

Chanda grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the dance floor where we spun and flailed around. While I’m notoriously bad at it, I love dancing. When you dance, you’re not thinking about your shitty ex or your overdue MFA paperwork or the way your boss likes to hit on you when he gets two beers in. It’s like yoga (only more fun and way less bougie) where you just get boiled down to your most physical self. Move. Breathe. Dance. Your problems are non-existent. You’re not a complex human. You’re biology. And biology doesn’t have problems. Biology just is, so dance. Shimmy like an amoeba under a microscope. Prance like a cat stalking the red dot. Sway like a sapling in high wind. You get the idea.

So, we danced, and because I haven’t an ounce of physical grace, we laughed. Laughed so much my face started to ache. My dumb ex, my bad boss, the pressure of school—all of it went on the back burner as I gulped down the ginger ale Gabe brought us. It was in that moment, when I was feeling pretty good about things, that I ran into a wall, drink-first. Cold ginger ale and half-melted ice cubes spilled everywhere, all over me, the floor, the wall…

“Watch it.” The wall snapped, brushing ice off of his v-neck.

I craned my neck back, my eyes finally lighting on a beautiful face made severe by flinty disapproval. He took my breath away. His glossy black hair curled gently behind his ears, long features softened by thick brows and a silver-flecked beard, incongruously reddish against his olive skin. His frame was broad-shouldered and lean, and if it weren’t for the glare, he’d be a perfect specimen of male beauty. It’d been quite some time since I’d been with anyone (the sex with Jamie became occasional at best well before our relationship ended) let alone a guy, but this one made my neglected libido sit up and take notice.

“My bad,” I said. My fingers twitched towards the soft fabric of his shirt, but I thought better of it and let my hand drop.

“Ugh, perfect,” he said, looking down at the damage. His voice was deep with the telltale flatness of the Midwest. “All I need is to smell like booze all night.”

“It’s ginger ale,” I protested. “I doubt it ruined your Prada.”

His full lips pulled back with a hint of a sneer. “I didn’t realize this was an all-ages show.”

“And I didn’t realize you had to have a stick up your ass to get in the door,” I retorted, bristling. I was twenty-six but often mistaken for younger. It’s frustrating to be underestimated because you happen to have tits and good Scandinavian genes.

He opened his mouth to speak when Gabe ran up to us. “Will! There you are! I see you met Allie.”

“You know this guy?” I asked, incredulous. Maybe he was Gabe’s boss and Gabe had to be nice to him. Gabe was so open, so friendly, so nice. It seemed weird to me that he would be friends with this strange, forbidding man.

“This is my friend Will, don’t you remember? I told you I’d invited a friend…for you to meet…?”

Oh no. No, no, no. I started to get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. No wonder Emma had been so adamant I come to the show. She’d been dropping so many hints lately about “getting back out there.” Gabe had the good grace to look embarrassed, at least. There was a pause in the music, enough for me to hear the gorgeous jerk say, “This is who you’ve been talking about?”

Oh well, excuse me for existing. The opening “aaaahs” of “Let’s Dance” started playing, drowning out the end of his question. Gabe pointed at his ear and shouted, “Sorry! Can’t hear you!” He shooed us towards the dance floor before wandering off, leaving me alone with Sir Scowls-a-lot. I was still trying to wrap my head around why Gabe and Emma thought we’d hit it off. Aren’t you supposed to seek balance? One pessimist, one optimist, that sort of thing? Whose bright idea was it to try to pair up two obvious misanthropes?

“I had no idea!” I shouted over the music. “I didn’t ask Gabe to do this!”

The guy, Will, gave me a long look before nodding curtly at me, turning and stalking away without another word.

“You okay?” Chanda asked from behind me. “That guy seemed…intense.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine,” I assured her. She looked at me doubtfully as I excused myself to go to the bathroom. My hands were sticky with ginger ale. The water in the ladies’ bathroom was hot enough to scald, but I washed them anyway, avoiding looking up at my reflection. I felt stupid now, in my costume and makeup, because from the moment I’d locked eyes with Gabe’s sneering friend, I’d felt like a fraud. The whole evening had clearly been a mistake and I wanted nothing more than to go home and curl up on the couch with a jar of Nutella and Jon Stewart. The sooner the better.

WILL

Well, that went as badly as anything could. Now here I stand, covered in soda, alone, and hating the world. Pretty much like any other night.

How hard is it to just meet someone at, say, a bookstore? Or at the gym? Or in a cooking class? Isn’t that how every chick flick started? Two sexy people meet, have an equal exchange of appreciating glances and hurled insults, and eventually fall in love?

This scenario shouldn’t have been so much different. I’m new in town, my best friend is dating a nice woman, a leggy ginger who suggests that her sister isn’t seeing anyone and would I like to meet her? Sure, why not. It doesn’t have to be love. It doesn’t have to be anything.

But then I meet her, and it is the worst.

Meet isn’t the right word. Rammed into? Nearly toppled? I didn’t see her; all I saw was Gabe waving at me in that ridiculous getup. And then, splash. And there’s this kid, her face is all flushed, eyes big as saucers in her head. I can’t tell what color they are in this light, but there’s something behind them that I could almost…almost reach. She’s small, flint-eyed and sharp-tongued with a strong don’t-fuck-with-me vibe that doesn’t quite hide the way she stared at me. I’m not blind, I know what I look like. Girls like this never notice the tired circles under my eyes or the angry patches of acne I get under my beard.

When Gabe explains that this is Emma’s sister I want to deck him. What was he thinking? Even if she’s not a kid, she looks enough like one to land me on some kind of sex offender registry. And apart from her looks (which, youth aside, aren’t all that bad) she seems like the kind of girl who’d break your bones, your balls, and your will to live.

From across the room I see her standing at the door, watching people dancing to this impossible-to-dance-to music. Maybe it’s the hangdog expression, but I can see her age better now, and that thing behind her eyes that I couldn’t quite grasp. It’s loneliness, something I’d recognize anywhere. It sets my teeth on edge, and I’m glad when she finally turns and leaves.

The second she’s gone I feel it. A nagging guilt that buzzes in my ear like a mosquito. It says did you have to be such a dickhead?

No. I guess I didn’t.

The second I step out the door the muddy smell of the Mississippi hits me, mixed with exhaust fumes and piss, the perfume of cities. I’m still getting used to this place, not nearly as big as Chicago but bustling enough. Those that welcomed me thus far did so with their trademark “Minnesota Nice,” which seems to me to be grandly self-congratulatory passive aggression. People in other states were nice, why did Minnesotans have to act like they had a trademark on the concept? When I pull out of the public parking garage, the Tesla moves smooth and silent as a snake over the patched asphalt. The condition of the streets here should be a crime.

And there she is, the thin white duchess. Standing at the bus stop, pulling her jacket closer to her. She’s pulled her hair out of its braid and it hangs down her back in a wavy curtain of gold. What the hell, I tell myself and pull up beside her. She looks startled when she sees me behind the wheel. Wary.

“Hey,” I say. Off to the races.

“Hey?”

“Can I give you a lift home? I didn’t intend to scare you off back there.”

Her smile is a jackknife that pins me to my seat, balls first. Her eyes glint in the streetlight. “Scare me? You wish, moneybags.”

*****

There’s more that follows, of course, but I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into Modern Love. Thanks so much for giving it your time!

*****

**About the author, Beau North: Beau is a native southerner who now calls Portland, Oregon home with her husband and two cats. She attended the University of South Carolina where she began a lifelong obsession with English Literature. In her spare time, Beau is the brains behind Rhymes With Nerdy, an internet collective focused on pop culture.

**Contact Beau!: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Instagram

*****

**Click HERE to see other stops on Beau’s Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour!

RELEASE DAY BLITZ: “The First Year” by Genevieve Gannon

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Blurb: The first year of marriage is hard no matter what. Throw in jealous exes, high-pressure careers and two wildly different families, and the degree of difficulty goes up a few more notches. Determined to beat the odds, one couple comes up with a plan to keep their romance alive – but life has other ideas.

Saskia is an up-and-coming jewellery designer, waiting tables at a trendy cafe to keep her fledgling company afloat. Andrew is a corporate lawyer who wants to be known for more than his family’s money. They’re passionate about their work and each other, but with Andy’s job in jeopardy and Saskia’s jewellery label taking off, the pressure is taking its toll.

As life pulls them in different directions, the two of them are forced to decide: Just how important is their marriage? And how hard are they willing to work to protect it?

“A clever and entertaining read-into-the-wee-hours-of-morning story about love, creativity and the things that make us tick. Genevieve Gannon writes with passion and wit in a story you’ll relate to whether you’ve struggled through love, art or the wrath of public transport ticket inspectors.” Claire Varley, author of The Bit in Between

“I honestly haven’t enjoyed reading something so much in years. Such a great story! Something to really revel in. I related to Saskia so much but Genevieve managed to make Andy equally compelling.” Georgina Penney, author of Fly In, Fly Out.

“Genevieve Gannon writes with a fresh and funny narrative voice … chick lit at its very, very best.” Tess Woods, author of Love at First Flight

**Get your copy now of “The First Year”: Amazon   iBooks   Google Play   Kobo   Barnes and Noble

*****

Author Interview

What is your new novel about? The First Year is a novel about a newly-in-love couple who got married way too fast. Andy Colbrook is a high-flying lawyer with a snobby family and Saskia Hill is a bolshy jewellery designer whose father has done several stints in jail. On their honeymoon, Andy offers to support Saskia so she can quit her day job at a café and devote herself wholly to her art. But Saskia’s fledgling business is only just recovering from the financial blow it suffered when her ex-fiance cheated on her then ditched her with the bill for the wedding, and she is uncomfortable being reliant on her new husband. Tensions begin to emerge. Things are exacerbated when Andy discovers his law firm is in financial trouble. Despite their best efforts to keep the flame alive their marriage begins to suffer. Then Saskia makes a discovery that blows her world apart.

What inspired the book? This one came about slowly. When I sat down to write my first two novels, the concepts were fully formed in my head. I rejigged the stories and characters a lot, but when they were finished, they were how I had imagined them from the beginning. With The First Year, I found myself unsure what I wanted to do. I had an idea of following a couple day-by-day through their first year, but I didn’t know what would happen to them over that time. I thought the concept of the first year of marriage being the hardest was a good one to explore in a romantic comedy. So I wrote a few chapters and scene fragments, then I hit a bit of a wall. I knew I wanted Andy to be a corporate type, and Saskia to be an artist, but I didn’t have much more detail than that. Then one day I came across an article about a designer who had made the same discovery Saskia makes in the book. I did a bit of research and it turns out it is a really common problem. I don’t want to spoil the plot by revealing the big discovery, but once I had that I knew what I wanted Andy and Saskia’s story to be.

What makes the main character who they are? Saskia Hill comes across really brash but she’s actually quite vulnerable. She loves a man, Andrew Colbrook, who wants to support her as she builds her business, but the idea of being reliant on him conflicts with her feminist values. She eventually accepts his offer to back her financially until she is established, but it never sits right with her and ultimately is the cause of much tension.

One of my favourite lines in the book comes when Saskia receives a letter from her mother-in-law addressed to Mr and Mrs Andrew Colbrook. She has not changed her name and when the letter arrives she asks of Andy, “What am I? Some sort of subsidiary of you?” I feel like this sums her up perfectly.

Do you base your characters on real people? My characters are original creations, but inevitably I find myself incorporating traits of family and friends. Usually it’s just a little thing to give the character a ring of authenticity. When trying to *show* rather than *tell* – something that a lot of writers struggle with – I find it helpful to think about how real people display their emotions – the way their postures change, the tone of their voice, what they do with their hands and eyes. Sometimes I’ll lift a small anecdote (with permission) or give a sly nod to a friend by including a personal joke. But generally I try to ensure the characters are wholly their own people.

How long did it take you to write The First Year? I am often asked this question but this is the first time I’ve ever been able to answer it properly. For about a year, I had a few fragments of this story and a vague concept but didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. Then I made the discovery that revealed the plot to me and it was all very fast. It took me about three months to write a three chapter sample, a synopsis and a plot outline. I pitched it to HarperCollins in November, got the go ahead in December and had completed the manuscript by June. It was quite a fast process because I had been thinking about the characters and the supporting players for so long. As is always the case, it needed some major reworking and I relied heavily on my amazing beta-readers. But it basically took one year of procrastination and six months of furious writing.

What is your typical writing routine? I used to write at night and on weekends but now that I live in Sydney I find myself getting up early and writing before work. I assume that’s because it gets hot and sunny here very early. That being said, I still try to get some writing in after work. And I can be found most weekends in a café somewhere with a pile of manuscript pages and a laptop.

People love to ask writers if they are planners or pantsers. I think I’m a combination of both. I like to have a plot outline before I begin, but sometimes it is very vague and details emerge – and characters are created or killed off – as the writing progresses.

Where do you write? I do a lot of writing at my dining room table – but I far prefer to write in cafes. It’s not always possible, of course. Sometimes you have a burst of creative energy at 2am when all the good cafes are selfishly closed, and realistically it’s just not possible to mainline lattes for eight hours and a Saturday or Sunday. But my preference is definitely to write in a café. When I was living in Melbourne I would write a lot at Milkwood in East Brunswick (try the white beans on toast) or a Minor Place (more white beans, these come with Dukkah and avocado). Another favourite is a café called True North in Coburg. They have lovely booths that I like to spread out in, and do great sandwiches with heaps of vegetarian options.

What book do you wish you had written and why? This is a complete departure from the type of fiction I write, but I am in awe of We Need To Talk About Kevin. Lionel Shriver creates so much tension and complexity. I adore her prose and the way she uses a million little perfectly phrased observations to make-up the story.  I love the way she tricks the reader into thinking they know what is happening, only to discover all is not as it seems as the narrative slowly reveals itself.

Who are you favourite writers? This is such a difficult question to answer because there are so many, and I turn to different writers for different things. I love Caitlin Moran for the sheer joy she gives me with her hilarious stories. No less important is the strong feminist message in everything she does. I really admire Curtis Sittenfeld’s skill as a story-teller, and Gillian Flynn for the ease with which she spins complex narratives, imbuing her characters with light and shade. Jeffrey Eugenides remains an all-time favourite. Whenever I’m asked about my favourite books Middlesex is always at the top, and his first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was hauntingly, devastatingly beautiful. Oh, and Michael Chabon for so many reasons, especially inventiveness.

In terms of my own genre – which I consider to be a loose grouping of contemporary chick lit with rom-com tendencies –  I LOVE Lauren Sams who wrote She’s Having Her Baby and Crazy Busy Guilty. I also can’t go past fellow HarperCollins authors Tess Woods and Sunni Overend. The Regulars by Georgia Clark is great fun.

Who is your favourite literary character? I have racked my brain, trying to come up with an answer that isn’t a total cliché, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that Elizabeth Bennett is a sublime literary creation, and has to be my favourite character. She’s clever, sensitive, witty and warm. She loves her sister Jane and her friend Charlotte Lucas, and she’s loyal but not without flaws. She speaks her mind and isn’t intimidated by those who think them better than she is. At a completely different end of the spectrum is Uncle Oswald, a recurring character in the short stories of Roald Dahl. Uncle Oswald is a hilarious, wealthy, horny old man who often finds himself entangled in pseudo-scientific schemes with hilarious outcomes.

What are you working on at the moment? Having just finished a book I’m a bit of a free agent at the moment. I have two ideas that are in the very early stages, so I’m playing with both of them, thinking about the characters and deciding which one to commit to. I have just started a new job as a feature writer so I am finding that at night I’m spending the time I would normally dedicate to fiction thinking about feature ideas. That being said, I want my next venture to be a departure from my usual books. Neither of the concepts I’m currently playing with could be described as romantic comedies. The First Year has parts set in a court room, which came about because I spent the past few years covering courts as a journalist and my two new ideas are also inspired in part by that part of my job.

What would you do if you weren’t a writer? This one is tricky because writing is both my hobby (fiction) and my livelihood (journalism). My other hobby is baking, so perhaps if it all falls in a heap I could retrain as a pastry chef. I have made a few wedding cakes for friends, and I really enjoy playing with flavour ideas and pretty shapes. Strangely, when it comes to savoury meals I’m terrible, but I have mastered cakes.

What are you reading right now? I just finished Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty which I devoured, barely lifting my eyes to draw breath. Liane dazzles me with her ability to tease and entice. I am also reading Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler. I cheated on Sweet Bitter with Moriarty because I found myself at the airport without a book and knew I couldn’t go wrong with one of Liane’s books.

Coffee, wine or something else? I am completely addicted to coffee. I don’t drink much wine, unless I’m sharing a bottle at a dinner party or something. If I’m at a bar I’ll order sloe gin (rocks and lime), a gin and tonic or a cocktail. Sometimes when it’s really hot I’ll take my laptop to a pub and write while drinking cider and ice. But generally on those days my preference is a café and an ice coffee.

What is your favourite social media platform and why? I am addicted to social media. I love Instagram and Twitter but for different reasons. In my day job, I work as a journalist, so I love being able to keep an eye on the issues of the day as they unfurl on Twitter. I follow major news outlets, journalists I like and admire, politicians and specialists in my areas of interest. I also follow a few funny accounts to break it up. I like checking-in on Twitter when I take a break from work. Instagram is great for book recommendations, food and bar recommendations, fashion, recipes and just keeping up with what my friends are doing. I recently moved interstate, so it’s great to be able to see what my friends have been up to with a few swipes of my phone.

Of all your books, do you have a favourite one? This is like being asked to choose between your children! I hate to admit it, but I do have a favourite one. My latest novel, The First Year, is my third. I think because I had been through the process twice before it was less daunting and stressful. I had a lot more confidence and I think it shows in the writing. I also quite like the story. My previous books were what I’d call caper romances. In both, the protagonists hatched hair-brained schemes in order to find love. The First Year is a lot more grounded in reality. The characters’ families and work colleagues play a great role and I feel like they’re more rounded because of it.

*****

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*****

**GIVEAWAY**

**Click HERE for your chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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**About the author: Genevieve Gannon is an Australian journalist and author. She has worked in newsrooms in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. Her writing has appeared in The Age, The Australian, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, among others. Most recently she covered crime in Melbourne for Australian Associated Press before moving to Sydney to be a feature writer for The Australian Women’s Weekly.

Her favourite books are We Need To Talk About Kevin, Middlesex, Atonement, Prep and One Day. She likes Terry’s Chocolate Oranges and wasabi (not together) and hates mangoes.

Her first book, Husband Hunters, was published in 2014. The First Year is her third novel.

**Contact Genevieve: Website   Goodreads   Instagram   Twitter

 

Review and Excerpt of “Defining Her”

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“Defining Her” by Samantha March

Blurb: Nellie Hawthorne is a woman who has it all. A devoted husband, her own business, a wealthy lifestyle. But the Nellie she is now is much different from her past. A past filled with abuse, addiction, and men. Nellie’s carefully constructed new life is suddenly in jeopardy when a blast from the past emerges in her small town and her overbearing mother-in-law starts pushing for grandchildren and questions start being asked. A budding new friendship presents itself at an opportune time, and a once friendless Nellie finds herself growing closer to Prue Doherty.

Prue Doherty is the quintessential good girl. Always making the right decisions, always playing it safe. Until she meets a man that could change all of that. Still reeling from a devastating breakup and betrayal that had her fleeing from Chicago and settling into suburb life with her mom close by, Prue finds herself in a damaging funk. But everything changes when she befriends Nellie Hawthorne.

Nellie is trying to escape her past. Prue wants that perfect future. While both women strive to change their lives, they continue to cling to the past. But what defines us? Who we were then . . . or who we are trying to be now? Lies, manipulation, and deceit are woven throughout the pages of this edgy women’s fiction novel, with an ending you won’t see coming.

**Grab your copy of “Defining Her” now: Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Kobo

My Review: 

I’ve been a fan of Samantha March for a very long time, so I was very excited to receive an ARC of “Defining Her.” I read almost half of it the first night–it was that good!

Coming from a horrific background as a child and young adult, Nellie’s life is quite different now that she’s a married woman and a business professional. Having the pressure from her husband and mainly her mother-in-law about having a baby, I felt like when Nellie befriends Prue, it’s a way of a distraction. Like Nellie, Prue had a rough time as a younger woman, but not nearly as bad. In the beginning, I felt sorry for her and even liked her, but toward the end, I was a little surprised at how she handled herself. Maybe she was jealous of Nellie’s life, I don’t know, but in her case, it was easy to understand that her past caught up with her.

Over time, I thought it was interesting to see how the bond between them grows, but what I really loved was the ending, and how certain secrets are divulged. I don’t give any spoilers, but I was so happy with how everything ended and would love to see this book as part of a series.

While this book was dark in a lot of cases, the mystery of secrets between the women and their past was written beautifully. If you’re looking for a quick read over the weekend, I recommend “Defining Her.”

I give “Defining Her” 5 stars!

*****

EXCERPTS

From Chapter 1

Nellie

I pulled up the schedule and minimized it to a small square, dragging it up to the top of my screen. I loved keeping an eye on the appointments, seeing the client name turn purple upon checking in, then yellow when their room was cleaned after they were finished. Our salon had three Versa Spas and sixteen regular tanning beds, all varying in speed and power. Mondays could be a fairly busy day, as people have their high hopes for the week, their mental to-do lists of how to get it started off right. Even during summer season the tanning salon stayed busy. Heaven forbid one of the suburbanites looked less than stellar taking their children to the pool or their summer activities and camps.

I blew out a breath. I could feel my old self threatening to peek through my carefully worked on new persona. My Mrs. Hawthorne persona. I wasn’t the old Nellie. I wasn’t.

I turned back to the computer, watching the check-ins and check-outs start to happen. I scanned the schedule again. Mostly familiar names in there. One in particular stood out to me on that day. Prue.

I clicked on her profile, which opened up the client information, including their photo we scanned from their driver’s license. Yep, it was the woman I’d been observing the past . . . oh, two weeks or so. Cute blonde bob, though longer now than in her picture. Bright green eyes. Petite. I remember being the one to give her the tour when she first joined as a member. I towered over her, and I’m 5’7.

She stuck out to me because she seemed so . . . sad. Something in her piercing green eyes stuck out to me that day. I didn’t know what her story was and I knew it wasn’t my business. We all deal with our own shit in our own way. But something . . . just gave me a pause. I never really had an empathic bone in my body, and I wasn’t the girlfriend type. I tried doing that whole have chicks on my side that I can count on and have each other’s backs years ago and that didn’t pan out. Nah. It’s just me and Harrison now. And our neighbors and Harrison’s work friends and the girls at the salon, but these are all acquaintances or employees. Not friends.

Working on a graphic for the Labor Day sale distracted me from my thoughts, and I forgot about Prue and much of anything else. I worked on a color scheme that popped, a layout that was aesthetically pleasing, and squeezing in all the pertinent details to the sale. At noon on the dot, my phone gave a chime. Time to break for lunch. If I didn’t schedule my reminders, I would forget to eat all together. And yes, I cared about my body and my health and I worked out, but I did not skip meals. I was not anorexic or bulimic, thank you so much. I was healthy.

I drove to the deli and picked up a typical lunch—turkey and cheese on wheat bread, loaded with spinach, green peppers, lettuce, a few pickles, and low-fat Italian. I asked for an apple and, back in the office, grabbed a Smart Water out of my personal mini fridge. I watched YouTube videos while I ate—everything from how to perfect my winged liner to design tips to music videos. This was my time to zone out. To forget work and deadlines and schedules and invoices and just chill.

At ten to one, I started cleaning up my mess. Throwing my wrappers away. Wiping up some apple juice dribbled next to my MacBook. Clicking out of YouTube and getting back to the daily schedule. And, just like clockwork, I watched Prue’s name become highlighted. She tanned Monday and Thursday at one o’clock each day. Ten minutes a time, though she stayed in the room for nearly twenty.

I headed out to the front desk, while Kerri took off for the day. The next employee, Sasha, was scheduled at two o’clock, so during this hour, I sat out front and checked people in and out and cleaned rooms. I loved my job. My career. My business. And while no, I didn’t need the salon to help us financially, I loved having a schedule. A normalcy to a life that had rarely seen any. A purpose.

“Have a good rest of your day, Kerri. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Sure thing, Nellie. Catch you on the flip.” Kerri waved enthusiastically and headed out the door, gaudy pink Coach purse slung over her shoulder, already thumbing away on her ginormous cell phone. I made a mental note to buy my best and favorite employee a real designer purse this year as her Christmas bonus. Coach was so . . . basic.

I shook my head as I took a seat behind the reception desk. Listen to me! Coach was basic. How so much could change in so little time. If you had told me this would be my life at twenty-nine not even ten years ago, I would have laughed in your face. Or tried to rob you.

I looked up when I heard a noise and saw Prue approaching the desk, head down, car keys in hand.

“Thanks for coming in!” I said cheerily, a smile on my face.

She glanced back at me, just for a moment, but I saw the tears slipping down her face before she managed to put her sunglasses on. “Thanks,” she practically whispered, before she was gone.

I frowned, looking at the screen. I checked out her room on the computer, then proceeded back to room 8 to give it a clean. Wiping down the bed, I couldn’t stop thinking about this particular client. Why was she giving me the vibe that I should . . . help her? Offer her a shoulder to cry on or at least just someone to talk to? Maybe she was like me and never had a real friend she could count on. Maybe I could be that person for someone. Maybe making a new friend was just what I needed right now. To remind me that I had changed my life for the better, and I could still be that better person. Maybe the timing was perfect, what with my past threatening to return. This was the life I ran away to. I had to keep it together.

From Chapter 2

Prue

Once back home, I had just over an hour to get showered and changed and to the school. My mom, Jean Doherty, was the principal of Eakwood Elementary School, one of the three elementary schools in this small town. School had only been in session for two weeks but I found myself there three days a week helping out. They got unexpectedly short-staffed in several places right before the school bell rang for the first time, so I was filling in. Because I didn’t have anything else going on in my life. Right.

I was a court reporter and worked hard at my job. But it wasn’t your typical 9-5 desk job. Some days I worked in the courtroom from eight in the morning to two in the afternoon without a break. Some days I worked solely from home, transcribing notes and proofreading the depo. Not very often would you find me in the office of my employer, Swank and Marty, because it simply wasn’t needed and now it was too far to travel. Just three blocks west of Michigan Avenue, when I lived in Chicago I was there much more often, simply because I enjoyed being there and around my co-workers. That changed real quick when I learned one of my office-friends, Brandi, was sleeping with my boyfriend. That put a real damper on the office morale, especially when I learned she moved into the house with him that I cosigned my name to on the mortgage. Yeah. That stung.

After my relationship imploded, I hightailed it out of Chicago and to Oamark Park, to be closer to my mom. Since my dad died three years prior and I was their sole offspring, I often wanted to be closer to her. It was only about an hour drive from here to Chicago and I came back nearly every weekend to be by her or bring her into Chicago, but it was different being just minutes away from each other now. And being that I was at her school so much, we saw each other on nearly a daily basis. I wasn’t complaining because I loved my mom and our relationship was fantastic. I just didn’t . . . expect life to turn out this way.

It was all planned out. I had been with Deacon Moore for three years. We were in love. We met through mutual friends at a birthday party one night and had our first date just days later at Portillo’s. He was everything to me. My best friend. My biggest supporter. He gave me shoulder rubs when I was hunched over my steno machine all day and night. He brought me foot-long sandwiches when I was in the courtroom and only given a ten-minute lunch break. He eventually started working in my office, which I loved. He came home with me and charmed my mother. I thought a proposal was coming anytime. We bought a house together. It was my own version of a fairy tale.

Until it all came crashing down. Turned out the perfect Deacon wasn’t quite as perfect as I thought he was. He had been seeing Brandi on the side for nearly eight months. Eight months. We signed the mortgage papers as he was sleeping with another woman. How . . . how could someone do that to a person? And why? Why make me waste so much time and money and energy when he didn’t even want to be with me? What was the point?

Though money was never really much of a concern for me—Dad had a good life insurance policy and court reporters made a better-than-decent salary—but Deacon was still slowly draining my finances. I paid for the home inspection, the realtor fees, the upfront taxes. I paid the loan payments on the new car “we” purchased together but only Deacon still drove. Deacon and Brandi had missed three mortgage payments and the bank called me to get that paid because my name was still on the mortgage. All that nonsense has led us to court, which means . . . more money being drained out of my account. I couldn’t believe I made such a mistake. That I was so easily fooled. That I was betrayed by my lover, my best friend. Betrayed by a co-worker and someone who I was at least friendly with, if not real friends. And the fact that it totally upended my life was just the cherry on top.

I went from thinking a marriage proposal was on the way, moving into a beautiful home, bringing a new puppy into our lives to living in a small cramped apartment with my finances in jeopardy. Suing my ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend to try to gain back some of the money that I spent paying their freaking mortgage. It just wasn’t fair.

I pulled up to the school and parked in the employee parking lot. Walking in, my thoughts were still on how my life turned so quickly. What did I do to deserve such deceit? I was the good girl, the good person. I had morals and always tried doing the right thing. Karma scared the crap out of me. I was the dependable, reliable one. How was this fair, karma? Huh? It wasn’t. It just simply wasn’t. And that infuriated me. What was the point of always making the right choices if this is what I got in the end?

*****

**About the author: Samantha March is an author, editor, publisher, blogger, and all around book lover. She runs the popular book/women’s lifestyle blog ChickLitPlus, which keeps her bookshelf stocked with the latest reads and up to date on all things beauty, fashion and fitness. In 2011 she launched her independent publishing company Marching Ink and has five published novels – Destined to Fail, The Green Ticket, A Questionable Friendship, Up To I Do and Defining Her, and one holiday novella, The Christmas Surprise. You can also find her on Youtube sharing beauty reviews and creating makeup tutorials. When she isn’t reading, writing, or vlogging, you can find her cheering for the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs. Samantha lives in Iowa with her husband and Vizsla puppy.

**Contact Samantha: Instagram   Youtube   Twitter   Snapchat   Facebook   Amazon   Blog

**Click HERE to grab all of Samantha’s books for $0.99 now (for a limited time)!

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**GIVEAWAY**

**Click HERE to enter the in the Rafflecopter giveaway!

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**Click HERE to see more stops on Samantha’s Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours!

*****

BOOK REVIEW: “The Whole Man”

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“The Whole Man” by C.F. Rose

Blurb: Evan O’Cleary was in college when she spent a passionate 48 hours with up-and-coming baseball star Jesse Walsh. But after he broke her heart, she vowed to never see him again. So why does her heart leap when she runs into him ten years later

Jesse not only abandoned Evan, but also his dream of becoming a major league baseball player when his brother died in Iraq. Shattered by the loss, Jesse turns inward. He refuses to commit to more than a one-night stand, until he sets eyes on Evan again, whose body still draws him dangerously near…

Evan knows better than to trust Jesse, but when he protects her against an abusive ex-turned-stalker, one thing leads to another and she finds herself in a delicious encounter on his living room floor. Jesse may not be willing to commit just yet, but maybe Evan can break down the wall. As she gets close, though, Evan uncovers a devastating secret that could destroy their families and drive them apart forever.

My Review: The theme for this book was definitely romance all the way. I was hooked from the beginning, and it didn’t let me down. Though at times, it was a little repetitive and a few scenes I didn’t think belonged–only because I wanted to get back to Evan and Jesse, “The Whole Man” was emotional, yet beautiful, too.

While Evan and Jesse were both broken when they met, time (10 years) can do a lot to people, and from the start, it was like magic when they were together, as they both fought back some very heated sexual tension. I won’t give any spoilers, but I urge you to buy this book…trust me, you won’t regret it!

If you’re looking for a page-turner, and one that will make you melt during a few scenes, then I recommend “The Whole Man.” I give this book 4.5 stars!

**Click HERE to buy “The Whole Man”


cf-rose**About the author: Cheryl Rosenberg, writing as C.F. Rose to protect the innocent, is a sportswriter turned romance writer. When she’s away from her laptop, you can find her at the gym or serving as her kids personal uber driver. She grew up on the East Coast, but survives in too-sunny Southern California with her husband, the three kids and two rescued mutts.The Whole Man is her first book.

**Contact C.F. Rose:

Website   Facebook   Twitter


**Click HERE to see other stops on C.F. Rose’s Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours!


RELEASE BLITZ: “Fearless Flying” by Karen Gordon

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“Fearless Flying” Karen Gordon

Blurb:

An amazing job, check

An adorable apartment, check

A super supportive best friend, check

There’s only one thing missing from Vivienne Ramsey’s perfect life…

And after ten years of waiting the time is finally right for her to seduce her dream man. Tonight she’s going to wear Danny out in bed until he dies a happy man. But before she can begin her carefully crafted strategy of seduction he’s headed for the door. And for once in her over-organized life Vivienne doesn’t have a back-up plan.

If he had only read the memo about his part in her happily-ever-after.

**Find the book: Amazon   Goodreads


karen-gordon**About the author: Karen Gordon is an indie author who loves supporting strong and sexy women in fiction and in real life.

Born and raised in St. Charles, Missouri, she found her love of extraordinary stories about ordinary places by finding excitement in mundane suburbia. Although she currently writes romance and chick lit, you never know what she might do next. (You’ll never find a woman-hating, bad-boy hero though.)

She currently lives with the loves of her life, three very cool geeky men and one perfect puppy, just outside of Memphis, TN.

**Contact Karen: Website   Twitter


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**Click HERE to see other stops on Karen’s Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour!


EXCERPT: “A Corner of Her Heart”

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“A Corner of Her Heart” by Claire Yezbak Fadden

Blurb: Monica Morgan finally lands the job she covets—stay-at-home mom to her four sons. Her joy is short-lived, however, when a casual comment leads to the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. The news sends her reeling, grasping for understanding and skeptical of everything she once thought she knew. While she struggles with the deceit and questions her faith, her youngest child receives a devastating diagnosis, plunging her into deeper despair.

Unsure of how to move forward, Monica must reevaluate her options and determine what truly matters most. But will her decision ultimately destroy her family or will it make them whole again?

Excerpt:

Monica lifted her head from the pillow. That was a mistake. Why did I order that third pitcher? Her head, heavier than a bowling ball, pounded as though she had used it to throw a strike. Voices seeped through her bedroom door. Joyful sounds of Brad and the boys playing. She licked her lips, hoping to get the saliva moving. No luck. Cotton balls would fall from her mouth at any moment.

She didn’t remember much after Kate brought her home, except Brad holding her hair while she hugged the toilet. Tequila is not my friend.

Monica forced herself up and reached for a water bottle Brad had left on her nightstand. She slowly sipped, listening to what sounded like bodies bouncing off the walls. Definitely a sock war was underway. Monica would find her sons’ socks, now rolled up into balls as ammunition, for days. Guys could make a game out of anything.

She gingerly placed her feet on the carpet and ambled toward the family room. A cobalt-colored orb Monica recognized as part of Burke’s soccer uniform flew past her nose.

“Mom,” nine-year-old Burke shouted, “get back, you’re in the battle zone.”

“Cease fire.” Brad appeared from behind a chair and waved his arms. “Hi honey. Feeling better?”

“A little. What time is it?”

“About three,” Brady answered, stepping in from the hallway, “Dad kept us quiet all morning.”

“I asked to play sock war,” Bodie said, his voice barely higher than a peep. “Dad and me are a team.”

Monica moved to where Bodie sat and joined him on the couch. “Are you winning?”

“I think so,” Bodie replied, pointing to an arsenal of socks.

These moments made Monica’s life. Her sons enjoying each other, laughter rising throughout her home. Getting drunk last night was an escape, but she couldn’t escape her obligations. She didn’t want to. God blessed her with four sons to love and guide into manhood.

She soaked in their faces, sweaty and innocent. How could she steal this life from them? Monica would never forget what Brad had done. Still, she had to find a way to forgive him and make their family whole again. Her sons’ childhood depended on that.

**Book Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble   Smashwords   Kobo


claire-fadden**About the author: When she’s not playing with her granddaughter, Pennsylvania native Claire Yezbak Fadden is writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her books feature strong women who overcome life’s challenges, always putting their families first.

There’s a special spot in Claire’s heart for carousel horses – quite possibly the result of watching “Mary Poppins” 13 times as a young girl. She loves butterflies, ladybugs and confetti! Just ask anyone who’s received a birthday card from her.

Claire cheers on the San Diego State Aztecs, her alma mater, and she is a Black & Gold fan — Pittsburgh Pirates, Steelers and Penguins. The mother of three, she lives in Orange County, California with her husband, Nick and two spoiled dogs, Bandit and Jersey Girl.

Claire’s work as an award-winning journalist, humor columnist and editor has appeared in more than 100 publications across the United States, Canada and Australia.A Corner of Her Heart is her debut novel.

Follow Claire @claireflaire, email her at claire@clairefadden.com, join her Facebook Fan Page or visit her at clairefadden.com. For sneak peeks, prizes and fun, join her mailing list.


**GIVEAWAY**

To celebrate the release of A CORNER OF HER HEART, Claire is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

About the Giveaway: Win a $25 Amazon gift card! From October 14 – November 14, 2016, join her email mailing list and be eligible to win. The contest is open to U.S. residents only. She will email the lucky winner as well as announce the name on her blog, Woman@Heart – Giveaways page by November 15, 2016.

Enter here for your chance to win! Good luck!


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**Click HERE to check out Claire’s other stops on her Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour!


RELEASE DAY: “Misfortune”

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“Misfortune” by Amy Saunders

Blurb: Belinda & Bennett get caught in a battle of wills in an effort to help a new heiress who’s inherited from a woman she never knew. And it looks like someone wants her out of the way. After a man is killed on her property, it will take digging through an old house–and a family full of secrets–to unmask a killer, and a decades-old mystery.


amy-saunders**About the author: Amy is a sci-fi/mystery addict with a soft spot for humor and romance. She lives in Massachusetts, and loves to bake and watch movies. Learn more about Amy and her books at http://amysaundersauthor.com.

**Contact links: Amazon   iBookstore   Barnes & Noble   Kobo   Website   Twitter


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**Click HERE to see other participating blogs!


BOOK REVIEW: “Secrets of the Suburbs”

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“Secrets of the Suburbs” by Alisa Schindler

Blurb: Secrets of the Suburbs is the story of Lindsey, a 42 year-old suburban mom who seems to have it all – doctor husband, two great kids, satisfying part-time work; all the spin classes, shopping and lunches she can fit into her busy schedule.

But when a drunken moment with her friend’s husband opens up a well of desire, excitement and emotion that she didn’t even know existed, it throws her perfectly perfect life into turmoil. Because as Lindsey opens her heart and body to this forbidden passion; her eyes open as well, and she is forced to take a closer look at her life, her marriage and herself.

Already her friends are starting to whisper, her husband is growing suspicious and there is a Secrets of the Shore Facebook page that just may be talking about her.

Will Lindsey stay in her safe, pretty world with her seemingly perfect husband who just might have secrets of his own, or will she break every rule and follow her heart?

Whatever she decides, she’d better figure it out fast because in small town suburbia nothing stays secret for very long.

Sexy and engaging, with characters who seem like friends and issues that make you think about marriage, satisfaction and the lines we draw, Secrets of the Suburbs is the perfect book to curl up with next to your (sweet) snoring husband.

My Review: I’ve always been intrigued by books where affairs take place, curious where the author would take the characters, along with what the “excuse” would be, which is one reason I decided to review this book.

It started off quickly, and I found myself widening my eyes at some parts, blushing at others, all while Lindsey struggled to find herself. I’m thirty-five, have been married for almost seven years, and though I don’t condone extramarital affairs, I felt that I could relate to Lindsey because I think all she really wanted was a spark put back into her marriage, and for someone to see her in a new light (as a mother of two, who’s getting older). Some might think she was weak (which, yes, she did have), but I thought she was strong, considering the situations she was in.

I don’t want to give away anything, but I came away satisfied with the ending.

Writing about affairs can be very difficult, but I really enjoyed this quick and sexy read. I recommend this book to any woman who is on their own journey to finding themselves.

I give “Secrets of the Suburbs” 5 stars!


alisa-schindler**About the author: Alisa Schindler is a SAHM of three boys and wife to Mr. Baseball. In between schlepping to the ball fields and burning cupcakes, she chronicles the sweet and bittersweet of life in the suburbs on her blog icescreammama.com. Her essays have been featured online in the Washington Post, NYT, Scary Mommy, Kveller, Parents, Brain, Child, and Good Housekeeping, among others. Random nights, she can be found hiding in the closet with a pint of ice cream and a good book.


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**Click HERE to follow Alisa on her Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour!